It’s that time of year again, schools are closed for the summer and the holiday season is well and truly here. For the most part, being a contractor or freelancer affords greater flexibility in your work patterns. As the owner of your own Limited Company, you control your time and the only person you need to ask permission for time off is yourself.
Yet, as I’ve been finding in my discussions with our clients this week, vacations can be something of a minefield for independent professionals. A vast majority of contractors are guilty of not taking a break or even worse of feeling guilty when they do. Many of our clients carry a lot of responsibility and have high demands on their time, they can find putting down work nearly impossible. There’s also an inherent worry that unlike the full-time workforce, time off is time not earning.
A vacation, however, can do the world of good for both your health and your productivity. A holiday can revitalise and recharge you allowing you to come back with more focus and creative input to put into your projects. Many contractors and freelancers chose to make the change as part of a grander plan to get away from the 9-5 desk and achieve a better work/life balance – so ensuring you’re getting that precious time off is a prerequisite.
It can be hard, but with a little bit of planning there’s no reason you can’t be jet-setting. Here at inni, we try to get to know each of our clients and help them towards both their business and personal goals; working out how to get away is a common one. I always advise that taking the time to formulate a strategy for your holidays will ensure your business continues to thrive and that you get to enjoy your time off guilt-free.
How much holiday would you like?
First off, take a look at how much downtime you need. The amount of leave you want to take will probably reflect your goals for the year; are you planning to have plenty of time off so you can take on a passion project or because you need to cover the childcare, are you working to build up your business or save for something? Many of our clients try to aim for more or at least the same amount of holiday as their permie counterparts. This is a great benchmark to work with and lets you plan your contracts (and rates) accordingly.
Once you have a number in mind:
- Start planning your financial provisions. As an example, taking the banks holidays and an allowance of five weeks leaves you with 46 earning weeks in the year. How much do you need to earn in this time to fund your time off? Don’t forget to make provisions for unexpected leave too.
- Consider when you’d like to take your breaks, a week here and there or a month-long sabbatical, and arrange your contracts around any longer breaks
- If you’re planning to take a break while working on a contract, manage your client’s expectations and work this into your contractual / delivery agreements
Plan well ahead
Know when a big contract will be coming to an end? Does your business sector have particular down times throughout the year? Be sure to organise your holiday for when it’s least likely to impact your contracts. Most contractors and freelancers plan holidays around projects; going away at the end of a contract or just before a new one starts. If you’re lucky, you may have a constant stream of back to back contracts but being flexible about taking holidays when work drops off could allow you to recharge while securing your next gig.
That doesn’t mean you can’t take time off during a long-term contract. So long as you ensure you’re meeting your obligations to your clients, absences needn’t be a point of stress. It’s good business etiquette to plan your absence around the client’s needs to some extent – i.e. not in the first month of a contract or at critical stages. You can always extend a professional courtesy by letting your clients know as far in advance as possible and offering a degree of flexibility.
Be flexible and courteous but tell don’t ask
As the owner of a limited company, the client has a contract for services with your company; which is distinctly different from you being an employee. The only person you need to ask for time off is you. Don’t be sucked into following ‘employee protocols’ such as using holiday request forms. You are a separate business, you only need to explain and plan for the absence whilst satisfying your contractual terms.
Taking the time to formulate a strategy for your holidays will ensure that you not only retain a steady income stream but get to enjoy your hard earned vacation safe in the knowledge you’re not breaking the bank or leaving your projects in chaos. Be sure to think about when it would be easiest, as well as when you would like, to take time off well advance. The earlier it’s on your calendar, the sooner you can alert your clients and start making financial provisions.
Hoping to take more time off yourself? Take a look at how our service could help you win back more time and achieve your goals this summer.